A Bit of the Southwest on 53rd Street

In keeping with yesterday’s theme of streets in New York that have an other-worldly feel to them, I have to mention a favorite place on West 53rd Street that always reminds me of my travels to the dusty southwest…


…This church, a really neat adobe mission-style building nestled in amongst the brick apartment buildings and more traditional Roman Catholic church next door. Seriously, how often do you expect to find something like this in the middle of Manhattan??


While it may not be as elaborate as El Paso’s San Elizario Chapel (thanks for sharing the pic, courthouselover!)…

San Elizario Chapel (San Elizario, Texas)

…the building still has a number of great details: the arches over the doors and windows, the two lamps on either side…


This wooden front door – note the iron window grate:


Looking to the upper levels…


…the church has the requisite bell hanging at the top.


This Virgin Mary is set halfway up:


The history of the church is difficult to track down. The neighboring brick church was once home to the first African American Roman Catholic congregation in New York City, after the parish moved from their original church at 210 Bleecker Street in 1898. However, the origins of the adobe building and its purpose are unknown. Nowadays, the two buildings seemed to be linked to the largely Hipsanic St. Benito congregation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s used as the parish house.

If you’re homesick for the southwest, a quick walk past this church might serve as a decent reminder of adobe buildings and dry desert heat. While you’re there, note this ghost sign above the chapel for Omega Oil.



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  1. Hey have you ever done a piece about Washington Mews between University and 5th ave?

    I think that street has a very otherly world feel to it.

  2. I used to live a block away from this church. I too, enjoyed it’s unique style in the midst of the brick rectangles that surround this block.

  3. I just Visited the San Elizario Mission and as I was searching for it on yahoo i find this! Amazing resemblance having me just wonder if these two churches were related somehow..

  4. I lived across the street in the 1980’s. The building was a Catholic convent. It has now been converted to apartments.